PM’s Diyarbak?r address below expectations, but still significant


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an address to his supporters in Diyarbak?r. (Photo: Cihan)
Leading figures in the southeastern province of Diyarbak?r have expressed pleasure over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s pledges for a number of government-sponsored economic investments in their region, yet they say the prime minister should have been more ambitious for the solution of the long-standing Kurdish issue during a speech he delivered in the province on Saturday.
Erdo?an traveled to the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbak?r on Saturday to attend the inauguration ceremonies of several facilities. He also addressed a large crowd, which had expected him to talk about the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government’s plans to settle the Kurdish problem. However, Erdo?an mainly spoke about his government’s investment plans for the region, and left the Kurdish issue mainly untouched and refrained from commentary on the Uludere tragedy, in which 34 civilians were killed in a military air strike, a source of disappointment for many people in Diyarbak?r.
The prime minister began his speech by dismissing criticism raised by a number of media outlets that he had deviated from his earlier stance on the Kurdish issue. He said: “I am still holding the position [on the Kurdish issue] I held in 2001 [when the AK Party was established]. I still stand behind my remarks I uttered [on the Kurdish issue] in Diyarbak?r in 2005.” The prime minister had acknowledged for the first time, on behalf of the Turkish state, that Turkey had a problem called the Kurdish issue during a speech he delivered in Diyarbak?r on Aug. 12, 2005. He had pledged that Turkey would seek to solve the issue through peaceful and democratic means. “The Kurdish issue is the issue of the entire Turkish nation. We will solve it through more democracy and greater welfare,” he had said.

For many observers, Erdo?an recently deviated from his earlier peaceful stance on the Kurdish issue. Many accuse him of losing his excitement for the immediate solution of the issue.

Diyarbak?r Union of Tradesmen and Artisans’ Chambers (DESOB) Chairman Alican Ebedino?lu told Today’s Zaman that the prime minister’s visit to Diyarbak?r was a “source of excitement and hope” for the region, but his speech fell short of meeting the people’s expectations. “We were expecting the prime minister to give very significant messages about a solution to the Kurdish question and an end to the shedding of blood in the region. But his speech did not raise the excitement we had expected. The prime minister delivered important messages, but we were expecting to hear more important ones,” he said.

According to Ebedino?lu, the greatest defect in Erdo?an’s address was his failure to offer peaceful solutions to the Kurdish question. “We want a solution to the Kurdish issue as soon as possible. We want a new constitution which will meet the expectations of the Kurdish population. We want the [Turkish] state to allow schooling in the Kurdish language. We want the state to find out the real perpetrators of the massacre in Uludere. We were expecting the prime minister to offer a few words about all those matters,” he added. Turkish fighter jets bombed smugglers on Dec. 28, 2011, who were believed to be members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the Turkish-Iraqi border near Uludere in ??rnak province. Thirty-four civilians were killed in the airstrike.

Erdo?an’s last visit to Diyarbak?r was on June 1, 2011. He had traveled to the predominantly Kurdish city as part of his AK Party’s election campaign. On Saturday, he said: “Some people say the prime minister cannot travel to Amed [the Kurdish name of Diyarbak?r]. What is this supposed to mean? Who are they to say such a thing? Today I am here to reunite with my brothers.” Erdo?an also stated that his AK Party has always sought to serve the people of Diyarbak?r, contrary to the desires of terrorist groups and gangs. “We have never forgotten about our brothers in Diyarbak?r. We have always seen the will of the nation as the greatest guide for us. Terrorist organizations, domestic and foreign interest groups, coup planners and gangs wanted to divest the nation of its free will, but we managed to do away with them thanks to the strong support of our people,” he added.

According to Diyarbak?r Entrepreneur Businessmen’s Association (D?G?AD) Chairman Alaattin Korkutata, the prime minister won over many hearts when he said during his speech that he had arrived in Diyarbak?r as a brother of the people of Diyarbak?r and not as a politician. “He told the audience about steps taken by the state in the economic field [in Diyarbak?r]. He said the construction of a civilian airport and a highway are in progress in Diyarbak?r. He also said a huge stadium and mosque will be built in the province. All those were positive for us. But he was weak in his message about the solution of the Kurdish question. He should have given stronger and clearer messages about a new constitution, the right of Kurds to be educated in their own language and an investigation into the Uludere incident. The AK Party has taken very huge steps so far, and it had better not be late in taking new ones,” Korkutata asserted.

Turkey’s Kurdish question has existed since the first years of the republic, but it turned violent in 1984 after the establishment of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). More than 40,000 civilians and security forces have been killed in clashes so far.

Instead of offering a solution to the Kurdish question, Erdo?an put the blame for the question on the main opposition Republican People’s Part (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) during his Diyarbak?r address. “The CHP is the source of the Kurdish question, and the BDP is its exploiter. The CHP often holds congresses. I hope it will hold a new one and merge with the BDP. The BDP is trying to become the CHP of this region [eastern and southeastern Turkey]. I hope the two parties will merge and start functioning as a single body.” The prime minister also urged unity in all of Turkey, saying: “I am here as your brother. Our relationship is not determined by third parties or upon an order coming from other people. We love one another for the sake of God. We speak the language of the same soil whether we speak Turkish or Kurdish. We communicate through our hearts.”

Associate Professor Mustafa Canoruç, head of the Southeastern Democracy Association, said Erdo?an remains an influential and powerful figure in the southeastern parts of Turkey, and he made a wise thing by visiting Diyarbak?r amid increasing criticism of the state and government in the wake of the Uludere tragedy. “It has become evident, once again, that the single solution to the Kurdish question lies with politics. Political parties should visit the region [the Southeast] regularly instead of only during their election campaigns. We cannot solve our problems by discussing them in Ankara. They [problems] should be discussed loudly in the regions from which they emerge. This is why I believe the prime minister’s address in Diyarbak?r was significant to the region.”

On Sunday, Erdo?an was in the southeastern province of ?anl?urfa to attend the AK Party’s provincial congress and the inauguration ceremony of several facilities there. The prime minister delivered a speech there, too, in which he hailed the AK Party’s performance during his Diyarbak?r address. He claimed that a number of civil society organizations and Kurdish politicians had urged locals in Diyarbak?r to close their places of business and not attend the AK Party event in the province. However, he said, the people there paid no heed to the calls. “What happened after the calls on Kurds not to appear on the streets during the prime minister’s visit to the province? Were the streets empty? No,” Erdo?an said.

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